In 1982, I ventured out in my economics book entitled What’cha Gonna Do with What’cha Got?, and asked the questions, is it possible that God has an economy? If He does, what would it look like? I wanted to stay away from my own platitudes and hyperbole, and I also desired to not engender any knee-jerk reactions on the part of my readers. I didn’t want the folks to race to judgment and say “see there, God is a Socialist, and believes what Karl Marx, Engles and even John Maynard Keynes were writing about.” I, likewise, didn’t want them to simply say “See there, God is a Capitalist, just like Adam Smith, Milton Freidman, and Michael Novak might have written about.”
So, I took the Holy Scriptures that I had available to me, and read all sixty-six books of the Bible (several books more than once). I tried reading them just with the mindset of an economist (whatever that means), attempting to discover if God had an economic system.
I hadn’t systematically read very far until I caught myself saying, “Oh, my goodness! This is a virtual economic text book . . . Just look at the Egyptian’s economic model of production, consumption and distribution and the Israeli’s division of labor model.” And by the time I got farther, into the Book of Proverbs, I was stunned at the 21st century wisdom of Solomon telling everyone how dangerous it was to even think about co-signing and guaranteeing a note for someone else. I didn’t know all that was in the Holy Scriptures! I was amazed.
Economists talk a lot about the differences between positive economics . . . the way things are, and normative economics . . . the way things ought to be. One of the first things I noticed in my reading was an interesting blend of positive and normative economics. Another thing I observed right away was that tribal and national politics kept getting the normative and the positive aspects of economics all jumbled up.
By the time I had finished my reading assignment, I had concluded that indeed God had an economy, and without doubt, He was the greatest economist imaginable. His economic principles were clear and consistent, and the principles fell more into the category of the normative economics. But the thing that continued to impress me was that even though the principles were couched in settings of society and cultures, yet they were particularly designed and aimed at the attitudes and behaviors of the singular individual.
The emphasis seemed to be on the interpretation and response of the individualwithin the society to a certain economic principle. Then would come the question,What’cha gonna do with what’cha got? The economic model was not one of politics or culture. It was more of a personal economic model that influenced and guided the individual. It was not an economic model of the outside, but rather an economic model that influenced the personal life of the individual. It was an economic system of the interior.
Once the economic system of the interior was embraced and implemented within the individual, then he or she could successfully impact the family. Eventually the family would influence and develop traditions. Then institutions would be established that were intended to carry on those accepted traditions into the future. The stories of Abraham and Joseph were great examples of the process.
As has been repeated here so often, where the components of traditions, institutions, families and the individuals intersect with the components of land, labor, capital, and the entrepreneur, global transformation takes place.
I began to perceive that the nucleus of God’s economy, regarding people and societies, starts with the economics of the interior in the hearts and minds of individual people and then spreads out to influence and affect societies and cultures. It also seemed to me while reading that those individuals who were grounded securely in their own economic systems of the interior had the ability to operate with ease and security when they were expected to function according to outside models and systems of politically controlled economies. Frequently, those outside economic systems were not even compatible with their own interior systems. They seemed to successfully survive, and many times they excelled in those foreign or imposed systems.
Throughout my investigation I found many examples, like Daniel, who for one reason or another, were forced to live under the expectations of a contrary economic model. But they successfully survived, none-the-less, and functioned by staying true to their own individual system of interior economics.
Next Week: Other characteristics of God’s economy
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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